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Zimbabwe: turning the corner

Zimbabwe: turning the corner

A personal view by Peter Law, of the ‘Our Africa’ website team

Another report in the BBC Radio 4 Crossing Continents series is being broadcast tomorrow (Thursday December 1st, 11am, repeated Monday December 5th, 8.30pm) – and, once again, the producers focus on Zimbabwe. Last time they revealed how Zimbabwean children are risking all to travel from their homeland to South Africa to get an education. See: Dreaming of an education

This time, in Farming Zimbabwe, the focus is on a still more explosive subject, the aftermath of President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms.  As we know, in 2000, President Mugabe introduced ‘fast-track land reform’ in a wave of often violent takeovers of mainly white-owned farms. The takeover was seen internationally as a disaster. It was widely reported that cronyism and corruption meant only the country's politically-connected elite were benefiting from the land reform programme, and in the process were leading Zimbabwe's lucrative agricultural export industry into freefall. 

But, the programme asks, what is the situation a decade on? Crossing Continents reports on new research suggesting that farm production levels are recovering. And the programme meets some of Zimbabwe's new black farmers – some of whom took part in the land seizures – who reveal how land reform has transformed their lives. A decade on, despite appalling suffering, brutal political inflictions, and the most traumatising effects on children, some may begin to wonder whether land reform in principle was right after all.

We at SOS Children have just returned from Zimbabwe with video footage recording children’s insights into their country for the evolving ‘Our Africa’ website at www.our-africa.org. The ‘Our Africa’ project has seen children from all across Africa, not just Zimbabwe, create films about their country and their lives to give a truly new experience of Africa.

Ten years on from land reforms, today’s Zimbabwean children, filled with determination, can foresee a brighter future, giving hope to themselves, their country, the world. But, more than anything else, through their own filming, they invite us into the Zimbabwe behind the headlines, so we come to understand how it got to the point of land reform, and how its natural resources and opportunities for tourism will one day enable the country to turn the corner into one of Africa’s powerhouses.

That day may not be as far off as we all imagine.